Last year when I started planning an excursion to escape the despair of winter, I had little clue how much of a lasting impact a trip to South America would make. I thought that leaving the Inland NW's dreary winter weather to chase trout would be just that. Man was I wrong, it was much more.
Las Pampas was my first experience with South American culture. I've traveled around a bit in the Caribbean and Mexico, but never as far south as the Patagonia region, some 7,000 miles away. Each destination we have fished has been a good experience with warm and friendly locals, but there was just something different about Las Pampas. From the moment you stepped into the inviting lodge, you were treated as if you were family. Each day and evening the family atmosphere growing more and more.
Las Pampas though was more than just fishing. The people that run the operation from the lodge managers, to the guides, chefs and beyond were what really made the experience. I've not been to as many lodges as some, but enough to know that typically after the days fishing is done guests and guides part their ways not to be seen again together until the next mornings scheduled time. Las Pampas does an incredible job of intertwining guests with crew members, cultivating the family atmosphere. An evening of drinks or dinner with your guide really creates a bond that solidifies relationship and makes the days on the water that much more enjoyable.
In addition to the egalitarian atmosphere, the Rio Pico region of Argentina provides stunning vistas that photos really don't do justice. Nestled at the base of the Andes Mountains you find yourself within eye shot of towering peaks laced with glaciers and treeless tops of high elevation. The flatlands of Las Pampas provide fertile ground to drain the arteries of the Andes and provide nutrients to its finned wildlife. Every location we fished offered something unique to view and scenery that could never get old.
Within an hours drive of the lodge anglers have the opportunity to fish small to medium freestones, numerous spring creeks, a handful of large lakes, brown trout, rainbows, and brook trout of every conceivable size. Diversity only begins to describe Las Pampas Lodge's wide array of waterways nearby. It is quite possibly trout fishing nirvana.
For nine days our group of ten rotated through different water to get the full Las Pampas experience. Oggy Fox, the lodge GM, and faithful crew members like the stoic Anca Colm, strategically directed us to new waterways and opportunities catered to our liking, but also to showcase the diversity of the land. Each river, beat, or lake was to be rested throughout the week so as to not pressure the fishery and give visiting anglers a window to a time long forgotten in the states. With the number of estancias Las Pampas had access to, it was easy for them not to put anglers on the same piece of water and rest certain fisheries.
Fishing in Patagonia was truly an experience that I would imagine Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming to have been fifty odd years ago. If you were to strip out all the cities from Alberta to New Mexico and follow the Rocky Mountains, that is what it feels like to be in the Patagonia region. Endless opportunity, countless trout, very little human impact. Trout of varying size from typical 12-16" mixed with many opportunities for 18" and well beyond.
The small freestones offered classic trout fishing opportunities where traditional western dry fly patterns would entice rainbows and browns throughout most of the day. The spring creeks, lagoons, and backwaters often had trout prowling around that exceeded the 20" mark and the lakes were where the true trophies hid. Trophy trout hunters looking for the 24-30" trout will be tickled with opportunities for all three species (rainbow, brook, brown) that easily fall into that size range.
Now fishing is still fishing, trout don't just jump on your line at every opportunity. Even with the lack of overhead predators such as eagles and osprey, anglers had to carefully present their flies and at times rotate through patterns until the silver bullet was found. With Las Pampas location being seated near the mountains, shifting weather played a role in the days fishing as well. We were fortunate enough to have some incredibly sunny and light winded days on the beginning and end of the trip, with a few days in the middle where I couldn't find enough layers, and days of hucking flies into 40 knots of wind. Those days were about as silly as bringing a knife to a gunfight. Like most trips, a well-prepared angler will have no trouble with these variables.
Wind or no wind, the people, culture, scenery, food, and of course the fishing was second to none. Las Pampas refers to all of these experiences as the "Las Pampas Style". I couldn't agree more, and I can't wait to get back to the Las Pampas Style.